Too Late for a Tune Up: What to Do When Your Car Breaks Down on the Road

How To Handle A Sudden Breakdown


Our vehicles are now smarter and more autonomous than ever before. They’re also loaded with tech-savvy safety features designed to keep us protected. Still, breakdowns are at a record high.

Year after year, more than 30 million drivers find themselves stranded in the breakdown lane with battery, flat tire, and key problems. 

While no one wants to envision that scenario, it’s important to know what to do should you find yourself there. 

Today, we’re sharing a few tips on how to proceed if your car breaks down on the road. Understanding these steps can help you stay calm and collected, even with the chaos around you.

Too Late for a Tune Up: What to Do When Your Car Breaks Down on the Road 1

1. Get Off the Road

First and foremost, you’ll need to maneuver your vehicle off the road if possible. 

This is purely from a safety standpoint, to make sure you aren’t a target for distracted drivers going 65 miles per hour who can’t stop on a dime. 

If your car is still on, safely and quickly pull onto the highway shoulder. Turn on your signal before you do so, and make sure all lanes are clear. If you need to pull onto the left shoulder, put as much distance between your car and moving traffic as possible. 

If your car fully breaks down and you’re unable to move it, turn on your hazard lights immediately. If you feel your safety is at risk if you remain in the car, look for a place to exit and leave your vehicle only when you feel it is safe to do so.

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2. Determine Your Location

When you call a towing company, accident recovery service or roadside assistance, you’ll need to be able to explain exactly where you are.

Though your mind may be moving at lightning speed in a million different directions, take a deep breath and a long look around. 

Look for signs denoting major exits. Also, scan for major landmarks or commercial entities, such as gas stations, retail centers or restaurants. Your phone may also provide you with GPS locational data that can be helpful to share. 

Don’t see any signs around? Try to remember the last exit you took, or how far away you were from your final destination. Even the most minute detail can help others find you quicker. 

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3. Evaluate Operational Concerns

When you’re able to safely assess your vehicle’s operating condition, take note of what you see and hear. Are there any unusual sounds emitting from your vehicle?

Listen especially for rattling noises or anything out of the ordinary. What about smoke or steam coming from beneath the hood?

In many cases, you’ll be able to spot these conditions from inside your vehicle. If you must exit, do so with caution. 

Before opening your car door, make sure there is no oncoming traffic. This is especially important if your car breaks down at night or in inclement weather, as your visibility will be limited.

Then, exit your car on the side away from traffic and make sure you’re always standing beside your vehicle, rather than in front or behind it. Doing so helps other drivers see you better and prevents you from being blocked by the car. 

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4. Make Your Car Visible

Next, it’s important to alert both roadside crews and other motorists that your car broke down. This is critical whether you’re in a designated breakdown lane or in the middle of the road.

Turn on your flashers, even in the daylight. Then, pop your hood.

Do you have a lightweight article of clothing, such as a scarf or jacket, that’s highly visible and brightly colored?

If so, exit safely, and then tie it to your door handle or around your antenna to draw attention to your car. A white towel works, too. You can also close it in your window. 

This is a universal sign that you’re experiencing car troubles and can help alert other drivers to your condition. 

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5. Call for Help

Begin by calling 911. The operator can walk you through your next steps to make sure everyone in your vehicle remains safe. Then, call a trusted friend or family member and fill them in on what’s happening.

From there, your next call should be to a roadside assistance company and towing service. If you’re part of a motor club, have your membership number ready. You should also be able to provide the following information:

  • Your phone number
  • Your location
  • The make and model of your car
  • The general nature of your problem
  • Anything rare or unusual about your car or party that may present a towing concern 

Let the operator know that you have called 911 and are in a safe location. 

Know Where to Turn If Your Car Breaks Down

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No one wants to consider the possibility of car troubles. We count on ours to get us painlessly and efficiently from Point A to Point B without any issue.

As such, it’s easy to sweep such preparations under the rug for a later date. However, knowing what to do when your car breaks down can save your life and the lives of your passengers. 

Make a copy of these tips and keep them in your glove compartment for quick access in case of an emergency.

Then, add our number to the checklist.

For more than 20 years, we’ve helped East Coasters fix their flat tires, jumpstart their batteries, and get back into their cars after an accidental lockout. We’ll also provide light, medium or heavy-duty towing services in the event of an accident or weather damage. 

Contact us today to learn more about our breadth of services. We’re here when you need us, giving you back your peace of mind. 

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